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October 2015

September 2015

Online sales tax collection is about to cross the halfway mark. On Thursday, Oct. 1, Michigan will become the 26th state in which Amazon will collect sales tax. Amazon box photo by MikeBlogs via Flickr The Seattle-based online retail giant, however, isn't the only company affected. Michigan operations, taxes: Michigan's new Main Street Fairness Act that takes effect tomorrow applies to all Internet retailers with a presence in the Great Lakes State. The affected businesses will be required to collect and remit to the Michigan Department of the Treasury the state's 6 percent sales tax on all purchases made by... Read more →


Attention Maryland residents. If you paid taxes to another state between 2011 and 2014 and were denied a tax credit for your county piggyback taxes against the out-of-state payments, the Old Line State is now handing back the money you're due. Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, behind podium, and Gov. Larry Hogan held a press conference Sept. 28 to announce creation of a special online site to help taxpayers get the county tax credits ordered earlier this year by the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo by Joe Andrucyk via Maryland Governor's Office Photo Gallery. In May, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that... Read more →


The Donald sure knows how to sell, that's for sure. As part of Trump's just-released tax plan, in April some taxpayers won't owe the Internal Revenue Service a red cent. But they still will get to send in a form, one that simply says, "I win!" What person wouldn't welcome no taxes and an in-your-face message to the hated IRS? Well, some sane people who question whether, despite Trump's promises, that his repackaging of a trickle-down tax system will work might have their doubts. But The Donald hasn't ever let the haters-gonna-hate crowd stop him. Zero tax bracket: The no-tax... Read more →


The Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal has brought new attention to alternative fuel vehicles. Conservationists love the vehicles. So do automakers, who have embraced new technologies as a way to expand their markets. And governments, both at the federal and many state levels, have supported alternative fuel automotive options through tax breaks. The most popular tax break was the federal tax credit for hybrid vehicles. Now the energy saving fuel du jour is electricity. My concern about buying an electric car is finding a recharging station. That's not a problem for the owners of these electric cars charging along an Ontario,... Read more →


When avowed Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders and a whole passel of Republicans in both chambers don't like you, you know you are in trouble. Yes, Cadillac tax, I'm talking about you. 1959 Caddy tailfins photo courtesy Rennett Stowe/Flickr This Affordable Care Act provision was created to raise money to pay for other, expanded health care coverage. Supporters of the tax, which are dwindling, say that it should raise around $87 billion over 10 years. Expensive plans, high tax: So just how will Uncle Sam get that much new money? Beginning in 2018, companies will have to pay a 40 percent... Read more →


House Speaker John Boehner swears it wasn't a literal come-to-Jesus talk he had with Pope Francis that led him to announce today that he's resigning his Ohio House seat, and thus the U.S. House leadership post, at the end of October. We'll take the soon-to-depart Republican Speaker at his word. He is, after all a devout Catholic, so he wouldn't be making up stuff so soon after spending face time with the head of his global church. He did acknowledge, however, that he took the Pope's words to heart. At his press conference this afternoon, during which Boehner was in... Read more →


Greece, despite another bailout from Eurozone lenders, is still struggling to get its economy together. Now it faces another internal threat: bartering. The New York Times reports that as the Mediterranean country "grapples with a continued downturn, bartering is gaining traction at the margins of the economy" because money is just not readily available. Liz Alderman writes: "Graphic artists are exchanging designs for olive oil. Accountants swap advice for office supplies. In the agricultural heartland and on the Greek islands, informal bartering, which has historically helped communities survive, has intensified as more people exchange fruits, vegetables, other crops, equipment, clothing... Read more →


Do you regularly give to charities? Do your neighbors? That's probably the case if you live in Utah. A new study by the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, found that between 1997 and 2012 residents of the Beehive State donated the most to charity as a percentage of their total income. William Freeland, an ALEC research analyst, talks with the Wall Street Journal about "The Effects of State Taxes on Charitable Giving," the group's new study that he coauthored. Click image to see the full video interview. The other top 10 states as far as percentage of income... Read more →


Uncle Sam runs out of money on Oct. 1, but a group of Democratic Senators is hopeful that lawmakers will eventually get their funding act together. They even are enlisting the help of U.S. Treasury Jack Lew in providing sufficient money for the Internal Revenue Service to do its job in the coming fiscal year. In a letter to the Treasury chief, Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Dianne Feinstein of California, Ben Cardin of Maryland and Sherrod Brown of Ohio denounce "shortsighted budget cuts" as the reason the IRS has struggled to meet "its objective to... Read more →


We got a $147.26 check today from a neighborhood medical clinic. It was a refund for treatment the hubby got when he had a kidney stone. I'm always happy to cash any check. But this one is a perfect example of what's wrong with the medical industry. The hubby's ailment was back in December 2013. Yep. It took more than 20 months for the bill to be completely settled. When we got the check and statement detailing the payment and refund process, my initial expectation was that it was the insurance company's fault. It wasn't. Here our billing timeline. Dec.... Read more →


The ubiquitous ads for fantasy sports companies have attracted some unintended attention. Rep. Frank Pallone, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wants that panel to explore exactly fantasy sports differ from gambling. It's a question that literally hits home for Pallone's constituents. The Democratic Congressman represents New Jersey, which has been fighting to make sports betting legal in the Garden State. Supporters of the effort, which was approved by state voters, is seen as another way to bring tourism and tax revenue to the state, particularly Atlantic City and the state's racetracks. Now, in a letter to... Read more →


Georgia's fuel taxes went up in July. The transportation bill that created the new tax also continued the cities' or counties' authority to impose their own 1 percent sales tax at the pump. That new tax money now has sparked a lawsuit. The Georgia Motor Trucking Association, F&W Transportation and Prolan Logistics aren't challenging the actual taxes. Rather, the suit that was filed on behalf of the trucking industry contends that the transportation tax money isn't being legally spent. Georgia truckers want transportation tax money to be used only for road projects. Photo courtesy Wikimedia. The class action lawsuit argues... Read more →


As the global refugee crisis continues to grow, Pope Francis has a warning for churches. Open your doors to these displaced people or pay taxes. Photo by R LeMoyne courtesy United Nations The Pontiff's message about caring for those in need shouldn't come as a surprise. He has spent his life ministering to the poor and he's carried that message with him as the head of the Catholic Church. But his no-nonsense assessment of how some churches take tax advantage of their special status has taken some aback. Heavenly guidelines for worldly acts: "On Judgment Day we already know how... Read more →


Paul & Cruz take literal aim at GOP presidential nomination

We get it Republican presidential hopefuls. There are way too many a lot of you out there and nobody can out-pontificate Donald tRump, so you have to resort to something flashier. For two Southern candidates, that's guns, of course. Sen. Rand Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky, already tried killing the bloated tax code with, among other things, a chainsaw. But the Internal Revenue Code is tough, in every definition of the word. So on Wednesday before heading off to the second GOP debate, Paul on took aim with an AR-15 assault rifle. Yeah. An 8-second video. Pretty anticlimactic, but... Read more →


The House Ways and Means Committee plans to mark up seven bills this morning (Thursday, Sept. 17), most of which usually are considered as part of a comprehensive tax extenders package. More than 50 temporary tax laws expired at the end of 2014. Congress is slowly working on getting them back in the tax code for at least a couple more years. Passage of the extenders, so named because they are temporary tax laws that must be renewed (aka extended) periodically by Congress, have become an end-of-the-year pain in the a… a legislative ritual. Such a delay, however, means that... Read more →


Jeb Bush's tax proposal would save him $773,000 in taxes. Donald Trump hasn't released his tax plan yet (he says he will in three or so weeks), but in his 2011 political manifesto "Time To Get Tough," The Donald said he wants to abolish the inheritance tax. That certainly would be a big benefit to Trump's children who one day will inherit his huge estate. Republican candidates face off again in their second televised debate tonight on CNN. Will they talk taxes more this time? If so, keep in mind how their wealth affects their tax proposals. I'm not saying... Read more →


Every state collects some type of tax. That means some taxpayers in all states end up in tax trouble. And to help residents out of those tax predicaments, and simultaneously add missing money to state treasuries, they offer tax amnesties. While many folks who pay taxes in full and on time view tax amnesties as unfair, tax collectors are more pragmatic. In order to get the owed tax money sooner and without costly enforcement actions, states (and often municipalities and/or counties) offer their residents a chance to pay their overdue taxes and avoid penalties and interest. Six states kicked off... Read more →


A recent online conversation among personal finance bloggers underscores just how challenging taxes can be even for folks who regularly deal with money matters. This specific discussion focused on how to pay the appropriate amount of estimated taxes. It's a big concern, since missing a payment or not paying enough can mean bigger tax bills, thanks to penalties and interest. Four extra filings: Estimated tax payments are required when you get income that isn't subject to withholding. This could be income as an independent contractor, investment earnings, prize money or certain gambling winnings. Basically, Uncle Sam expects you to take... Read more →


I was feeling a bit overwhelmed recently, looking at what was on my to-do list and the time left to do it. Then I saw Congress' schedule and thought, I'm in good shape. The House and Senate are facing a series of deadlines that have much more serious consequences than me getting a story or blog post in at the last minute (please don't tell my editors I said that!). There are four major dates on the remaining 2015 Congressional calendar: October 1 -- The end of 2015 appropriations and the return of sequestration. October 29 -- Expiration of the... Read more →


You've got to give it to Alabama lawmakers. They don't mess around when they talk about sin taxes. Oh sure, the Alabama House Ways and Means Committee OK'ed a 25-cent-per-pack cigarette tax hike. But nicotine addiction is just a minor sin. And that tax was just a preview. The state's tax-writing committee last week also approved a 40 percent excise tax on pornographic materials. Alabama isn't censoring adult material, but some lawmaker do want to tax it heavily to help close the state's budget shortfall. You read right. Forty. 4-0. The size of the proposed tax and its titillating target... Read more →